Dwarfism, gaming, and the ‘butterfly-effect’ – a blog by Jacob Gould

My name is Jacob. I always introduce myself as a twenty-something software developer, gamer; who has a Christmas cracker sense of humour; a slight affinity for caffeine; and who just happens to have Achondroplasia.

I saw the RGA was running the #SpreadTheWord campaign – asking libraries and schools to stock books that show a positive image of dwarfism. I wanted to take part and contacted my old primary school to see if they’d welcome the books into their library. The current generation there would not have grown up with any real-life representation of dwarfism. They accepted my request and wanted me to revisit the school to deliver a presentation.Read More

Mega Weekend 2017 (dwarfism convention)

Wowzers! We’ll be hosting our annual Mega Weekend event between October 26th and 29th 2017 at the Woodland Grange hotel – of which we have exclusive use – in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

Three full days in which people with dwarfism and their families can attend a range of interactive workshops, informative talks, and fun activities, including:Read More

Dwarfism: what a Lego figure taught me about power

“You’re attention-seeking!”, “these characters are fictitious!”, “they’ve existed for years!”. These were some of the charges levelled at us this summer when we spoke out about an ‘Evil Dwarf’ collectors card, based on the popular LEGO figures. Here I must express an interest: I am the charity’s Vice-Chair and have dwarfism myself. From that position I feel it’s important I address these criticisms – not because I’m ‘sensitive’ or ‘a snowflake’, but because they provide a valuable lesson in power.Read More

Role models in the dwarfism community: Tom Shakespeare, Professor of Disability Research

Professor Tom Shakespeare

Welcome to the fourth installment in our series of interviews with role models in the dwarfism community. We spoke to Tom Shakespeare, Professor of Disability Research and radio show presenter. Here’s what he had to say to us:

Please introduce yourself: who are you and where are you from?

My name is Tom Shakespeare, I was born in Aylesbury, Bucks, and now I live in Norwich, Norfolk.

And what do you do?

I am Professor of Disability Research at the University of East Anglia.  I teach medical students, and I also conduct disability research, both in UK and Africa.

Do you enjoy it?

Yes, I enjoy my work very much.  It is very varied: teaching here, interviewing someone there, writing a paper after that.  I enjoy meeting different people all the time.  In particular, I really like my medical students, they work very hard and they are committed to what they’re trying to do. I also do media work – particularly giving talks on Radio 4 – which I find very rewarding because I get instant feedback from listeners.  It’s always very satisfying to write a book – the feedback is not instant, more like a slow burn of appreciation.

How did you end up doing it?

I left Uni and worked for a couple of years in the co-operative sector.  I then went back to Uni and did a Masters and a Doctorate. After that, I worked as an academic for most of my career, with one five year break working at the World Health Organisation in Geneva, and another three year break to do arts activities.

If you were 21 again, would you do something different?

I sometimes wonder about that.  I love media work, and maybe I could have tried to have become a journalist, either on a newspaper or in BBC radio.  But I feel mostly content with what I’ve done with my life.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Meeting different people is always rewarding. But I also love learning things, and this job is about continually finding new things out.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first paid work was counting laundry in a hospital for people with learning difficulties for a week. The laundry was soiled. I don’t think it’s possible to find a worse job.

What are the best and worst aspects about being small?

Best aspect is that everyone remembers you. Worst aspect, from the age of 50, has been the health problems – back pain for years, now paralysis and being reliant on a wheelchair.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to your teenage self what would that be?

Don’t worry about relationships. If you have a positive personality, people will love you.

Which living person do you most admire and why?

Maybe Barrack Obama. He’s very clever. He’s very funny. He had a great impact on the world, and above all, he’s so cool.

How do you like to pass the time, outside of work?

Cooking, reading, watching films, listening to music.

What’s your favourite book?

Possibly The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald. Or maybe The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brian. Or To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf.  So many books, so little time!

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I once used the word ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’, in the correct context, on BBC Question Time.

When your time comes, how would you like to be remembered?

I hope people are still reading my books after I’m gone, and that at least one of them is a novel, not just an academic tome!

Role models in the dwarfism community: Simon Minty, trainer, consultant, comedy producer.

In this, the third installment in our series of interviews with role models in the dwarfism community, we speak with Simon Minty, trainer, consultant, comedy producer. Read on…

Simon Minty

Please introduce yourself: who are you and where are you from?

My name is Simon Minty and I live in London. I was born in Epsom in Surrey and moved to London when I went to University and stayed.

And what do you do?

I’m not very good at explaining this. I’m self-employed. I’m a trainer and consultant. I talk to large companies about employment and customers who have a disability. I also produce comedy with Abnormally Funny People. I currently co-host two podcasts, one for the BBC called Ouch and one with my friend and colleague Phil.

Do you enjoy it?

Yes, in the main. I get nervous when I have to make a big speech but I love it too. I enjoy being asked to go in to a BBC radio studio and talk. I really enjoy the comedy we make and perform. A good training course when I can see delegates get ‘it’ is hugely rewarding. I have travelled for my work and that’s been fantastic. But, I have to write tender documents, have to do long conference calls and always have some admin to do which I enjoy less.

How did you end up doing it?

I left school at 18 and worked for Barclays Bank until I was 25. I ran training courses for Barclays as well as advised small businesses. My manager told me about a consultancy that worked in disability. At the time, I wasn’t thrilled to be categorised but stored the information. After realising I wanted something different from banking, I took a sabbatical and back-packed around Australia and New Zealand. Whilst away, I had the chance to think about where I fit in the world, about being short and I decided to go to University. A fellow back-packer suggested I studied philosophy. At University I continued to explore my height, disability more broadly and then met up with the chap who ran the consultancy. I started running training courses for him and, well, here I am.

The comedy was a different route, a best friend from school was a comedian and I loved everything about it.

If you were 21 again, would you do something different?

Phew, that’s a big question. I feel I had to do the things when I did to get to where I am now. I wonder if I’d stayed at the bank would I now be married with children, be mortgage free and living a different life?

What’s the best thing about your job?

Variety, freedom and the people. In the last few weeks I’ve been to Windsor Castle and the House of Lords, I recorded a show at the BBC, I spoke with a friend about writing a book, have been asked to do a talk in Hong Kong, and have written some comedy to pitch to Channel 4. I still have a mortgage though.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I’ve been lucky in that I don’t think I’ve had a truly terrible job. I even enjoyed my Saturday job when I was 15 working as a cashier for Bentalls department store. I used to baby sit for neighbours and loved that too.

A part of my job that I don’t like is how it makes me nervous. My anxiety before a big event can kick in a month before. A few years ago I was asked to talk at a huge government backed event and was a mess for weeks beforehand. I retched on the journey there. Waiting back stage I wanted to run away and decided there and then, I was never doing this again. Then I went on stage and loved it.

What are the best and worst aspects about being small?

How long have you got? I’m generally ok with it now, I’m well in to middle age. I can get affected if youngsters shout something horrible, or if someone clumsily leans over me. Being an ‘ambassador’, that is being polite when I don’t want to be, can be tiresome. Pain and discomfort aren’t welcome and increase as I get older. Romantically and emotionally it’s been tough sometimes. However, I do like being me. I wouldn’t have taken this path if I’d not been short. I love the people I’ve met, I also love the short person community even though I was a latecomer. Being short has opened more doors than it has closed.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to your teenage self what would that be?

Being short is part of you, don’t resent it nor obsess about it. Do what you want to do. Try and be nice. You will get a girlfriend.

Which living person do you most admire and why?

Argh, will you quit with these big questions? My answer does vary but right now, it would be my parents. They didn’t know what was coming (they are average sized as is my sister) and no one gave them any training so I’d say they’re pretty special.

How do you like to pass the time, outside of work?

Being self-employed and working in comedy means work and pleasure often overlap. I like theatre, travel, football, food, lie ins and socialising.

What’s your favourite book?

Two that affected me hugely at the time of reading are The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll. I love a bit of angst. I read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins whilst at school and again later and was gripped.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

These questions! Recently a friend sent me a twenty year old article in which I had been interviewed. In it I said I would be content when I saw a short person be in a soap opera and their height be irrelevant to them being there. This is happening now. I know a lot of people made this happen but I’m proud to have contributed.

When your time comes, how would you like to be remembered?

Good company, could be serious but was also fun.

Role models in the dwarfism community: Becky Curran, international motivational speaker, advocate, and consultant

Welcome back, to the second in our new series of interviews with role models in the dwarfism community. A few days ago, RGA UK VC Eugene Grant caught up with international motivational speaker, advocate, and consultant, Becky Curran.

Here’s what she had to say. You can watch her TEDx Talk here.

Please introduce yourself: who are you and where are you from?
My name is Becky Curran. I’m 33 years old. I have Achondroplasia. I currently reside in New York City. I’m originally from south of Boston, Massachusetts, attended college in Providence, Rhode Island, and spent the first six years of my career in Los Angeles, California.

And what do you do?
I’m an international motivational speaker and an advocate for diversity and inclusion on a global scale. I spend most of my days working in the diversity department at the largest entertainment union, SAG-AFTRA, where we work to ensure greater levels of inclusion in entertainment and news media for performers who have been historically excluded. This includes little people.

Do you enjoy it?
I thoroughly enjoy the work that I do. What’s really satisfying about my job at SAG-AFTRA is that I’m in front of people every single day, and am given opportunities here that I might not be given in other work places where my capabilities might be doubted.

How did you end up doing it?
I got into this work to advocate for people who are physically different. After working at a talent agency and television studio for a total of six years, I began speaking to educate as many people as possible so they don’t doubt the capabilities of people who are often left out. My work at SAG-AFTRA is an extension of my advocacy work.

If you were 21 again, would you do something different?
If I was 21 again, I would have started speaking at more schools and organizations. It took until the age of 27 for me to start taking speaking seriously. Regardless, I moved out to California at age 22. Spreading my wings that early on isn’t something I’ll ever regret.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I feel very respected at SAG-AFTRA and I love collaborating with my colleagues and our members. The schools and organizations where I speak encourage me to feel empowered.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
I would say that accounting, which I did during my first internship, was something I didn’t enjoy. However, I was glad that I gave it a try and then realized that it wasn’t for me.

What are the best and worst aspects about being small?
What you see is what you get. There’s no hiding being small. However I wouldn’t want to be born any other way. All I know is how to live my life as a little person. I may want to change the way that the outside world reacts to my difference but I’m fine being little.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to your teenage self what would that be?
Be independent, stay true to yourself, and don’t get too discouraged by rejection. Everything happens for a reason and each rejection makes you stronger for the next experience.

Which living person do you most admire and why?
I admire my father. He didn’t have the easiest childhood but he went on to build the family and life that he always wanted.

How do you like to pass the time, outside of work?
I love being by the water, photography, networking, traveling, trying new restaurants, spending time with family, and writing reviews for Google.

What’s your favorite book?
My favorite book is “Daring Greatly” by Dr. Brené Brown.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
In November 2013, I was asked to skip American Thanksgiving with my family and travel from Boston to Kenya, in order to help launch little people organization. Before I made my travel decision, a little person in South Africa reached out to say that she wishes that she could have the confidence that I have. I give full credit to my parents and how well they raised me. I wish that this woman had the same amount of encouragement, from an early age. In Africa, and several other countries, parents are known to hide their children if they have any sort of physical difference. I knew that receiving that message was my calling. On December 3rd, 2013, 500 people, including families who were known to hide their children in other environments, came to celebrate the launch of the Kenya Association of People with Dwarfism. From American Thanksgiving through December 6, 2013, I had the opportunity share my story all over Nairobi, in newspapers, on radio stations, television talk shows, and on stage, in order to restore faith in the community and remind them that anything is possible. Nelson Mandela died on my last night in Africa. This is pretty ironic since he reminded all of us that “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”

When your time comes, how would you like to be remembered?
Influencer of more positive portrayals in the media, which led to more acceptance for all of the amazing little people who come after me. I would like to be known for my confidence, independence, perseverance, and all that I accomplished, despite living with dwarfism in an average height world.